Newsmakers

Science  12 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5809, pp. 169
  1. IN THE NEWS

    CREDIT: CARLA OCCASO

    DREAM COME TRUE. A Harvard psychiatrist celebrated New Year's Day by opening a sleep museum he hopes will awaken adolescents to the wonders of the brain.

    The Dreamstage Sleep and Brain Science Museum, created by Allan Hobson, is housed in a renovated 150-year-old barn in Burke, Vermont, and features a sleep lab and videos displaying various aspects of sleeping and dreaming. “What I'm doing up here is about the brain; most people don't even know they have one,” says Hobson, 73. That is, they don't understand that everything they experience “is a function of brain activity.”

    Hobson, former director of the Laboratory of Neurophysiology at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, moved his equipment to Vermont in 2003 when funding cuts closed his sleep lab. A longtime advocate of education reform in medical schools and elsewhere, Hobson believes that exposing young people to the complex and fragile organ in their skulls will make them think twice before poisoning it with drugs. He plans to open the museum to educators interested in teaching students about brain function.

  2. ON CAMPUS

    SCARY DATA PROCESSING. Anne Jefferson hadn't planned on her experimental stream-flow data returning to her lab at Oregon State University in Corvallis in a police evidence bag, but it sure beat the alternative. She thought they had been blown to smithereens by police who believed the data recorders, left in the trunk of a rental car, were bombs.

    CREDIT: JAMES JARVIS

    Jefferson's salvation was the nature of the experiment. The small, perforated plastic tubes filled with gravel and disks with flashing green lights naturally caught the attention of an Avis car cleaner near the Minneapolis airport on 17 December. The recorders were designed to record temperature as water flows through the gravel, part of a study of gravel bed formation and evolution. Fortunately for Jefferson, the police used high-pressure water to detonate the suspected bombs, and the recorders—designed for just such a situation—continued recording.

    Jefferson says she learned as much from the experience as from the data she recovered. “If you've got an opportunity to download data before you travel, do it.” And of course, “don't leave things in the trunk.”

  3. MOVERS

    REVOLVING DOOR. Alcino Silva was barely installed as scientific director at the Bethesda, Maryland, National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) before he stepped down in December, just 3 weeks after giving his inaugural talk to the faculty. Silva and his boss, NIMH chief Thomas Insel, say the decision was mutual.

    Silva came to NIMH in October from the faculty of the University of California, Los Angeles, with the goal of creating small, intramural labs to scout for new research projects. Insel agreed with this goal, says Silva, “but we disagreed on some details” of how to go about it. For his part, Insel says it would be “too strong” to say that he and Silva disagreed. Silva's agenda for rapid change worried senior staff; it was “not a good fit,” says Insel.

    NIMH Deputy Director Richard Nakamura has stepped in as acting science director. An independent review of the affair is under way to help the agency understand what went wrong. NIMH also plans a full-scale review of its research program in 2007.

  4. Awards

    CREDIT: REED HUTCHINSON

    KNIGHTED. Her Majesty the Queen rarely bestows knighthood on academics outside the United Kingdom. So the announcement that J. Fraser Stoddart, a chemist at the University of California, Los Angeles, would receive the honor was “a bolt out of the blue,” he says.

    Stoddart, however, is a special case. The Scottish-born researcher's work in mechanical bonds—the use of interconnected rings or ring-and-dumbbell structures—has revolutionized biochemistry, offering nanotechnology researchers a new set of building blocks not found in nature. The work could lead to advances such as molecular switches and cancer-cell detection devices.

    Stoddart says some 300 former and present graduate students and postdocs had a hand in his success, as well as his late wife, Norma Stoddart, who died in 2004. “She asked the searching questions,” he says.

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